A Student's Practical Guide to Setting New Year Goals

Students are often encouraged to set their own goals at the start of the new year. By doing so, they prepare themselves for a successful year ahead – not just academically, but also in other areas of their life. After all, goal setting is a lifelong skill that needs to be nurtured over time before we start to see the fruits of our labour. 

Many people continue to set new year goals even after entering adulthood. Most of these are short-term goals, such as new year’s resolutions which we’ve all heard about. A smaller proportion of people would go one step further and set goals for the longer term, or even define a long-term vision for themselves. 

In recent years, goal setting courses have become more popular and prevalent everywhere around the world. This underscores the importance of goal setting in today’s context. Some schools have also jumped onto the bandwagon, by arranging workshops to teach students about goal setting at an early age. 

Many of these goal setting workshops dive deeply into the theoretical aspects. They often cover topics such as the different types of goals, or specific tools to help students craft well-defined goals.

When it comes to putting things into practice, many students suddenly realise that they still do not know how to get started. That is why we have come up with three actionable steps which students can take to actually get started with goal setting, as the new year rolls around. 

3 Steps to Setting Effective Goals That Work

Here are three steps which every student can take to set effective goals for the upcoming year:

  1. Think of what worked last year
  2. Bounce ideas off others
  3. Curate your list of goals

These steps may sound simple, but there are some slight nuances to pay attention to. Try changing your goal setting approach this new year. Reap the maximum benefits of goal setting by following the detailed steps below.

1. Think of what worked last year

Spend some time to come up with a list of things that went well for you last year. And a list of things which didn’t exactly go the way you wanted them to. Your list does not have to be too refined at this point, but should be a good representation of what happened during the past year.

At this point, you can also get some feedback from your parents or teachers to gain an external perspective. They are more than willing to highlight your successes, but don’t be afraid to ask them to be honest and point out the things which you can improve on. There may be some blind spots which you may not be aware of, but others can see it from their point of view.

Once you have gotten a snapshot of the past year, it is time to write down some of the things you are going to change next year. From your rough list, what are some actions you can take to improve yourself? There’s no limit to how long the list should be at this step. You’ll want to include activities that you will be excited about, so that it keeps you motivated while working towards your goals.

Here are a few examples to get you started:

  • Go to bed 15 minutes earlier every night, so that you can enjoy a proper breakfast at the dining table the next morning.
  • Do sports for 2 hours every weekend to ensure that you are healthier and more energised during the week.
  • Finish reading a new book every two weeks to expand your vocabulary, creativity and comprehension skills.

2. Bounce ideas off others

Take the list which you have established in the previous step. Find your parents, a close friend who you can trust, or a teacher or mentor who is willing to help you become an all-rounded person.

If you are doing this for the first time, start with someone you are comfortable with. As you progress, you will start to build up the confidence to seek opinions from other people.

Schedule a 30-minute session and go through your list of ideas for the new things you would like to explore. You may add new things to your list even if you have not thought of them earlier. Your list should preferably contain things which can get you one step closer to success.

If you have any specific new year goals that you would like to work towards, this is a suitable time to highlight them to the person you are having a conversation with. This makes the person aware of the direction you are heading towards. It also helps them to give suggestions that are more in line with your long-term vision.

It is always a good idea to bounce ideas off other people. That’s because they may come up with excellent ideas which you may not have thought of yourself. Or something which you may not be aware of, to begin with. This step can help you open up new perspectives to the world.

Once you get used to bouncing ideas off other people, it should become easier down the road. You shouldn’t stop at one person or two. More people means more ideas, and you can get a more holistic sense of things when you speak to different people who you interact with.

3. Curate your list of goals

Time is a limited resource, and we’ll often find the need to prioritise things. We may not be able to achieve each and every goal on our list, especially if we have an excessively lengthy one.

That’s why you will need to spend some time to curate your list to something that is realistic. Trim down some of the goals that are less important. Focus on the ones that can truly help you develop as an individual.

Some of the more short-lived goals would give you a transient sense of achievement; that’s something which we will need from time to time. But there should always be room for goals with long-term impact. These are the goals which give you the greatest return on investment, and the ones which you should dedicate more time to.

There is one key thing you should take note of – always give yourself a reasonable deadline to achieve your goal. Having a concrete deadline helps to keep procrastination at bay. If you think you’ll be needing three months to achieve your short-term goal, put that down on paper to keep yourself accountable.

You may set up a reminder on your smartphone to let yourself know when the deadlines are approaching. It is also possible to set up recurring reminders for things which you would like to do on a regular basis. You can either use a built-in calendar, or an online service that sends you updates based on a certain schedule.

At the end of the day, you should come up with concrete goals which you are clear about. There are many models out there on how to define goals properly, such as ‘SMART goals’ which have been written about extensively over the years. Break your goals down into smaller bite-sized chunks so that you can track your progress and achievements.

Moving Forward

Once you have come up with your list of goals for the year, it’s time to put things into practice. Always check back on your list periodically to make sure that you don’t go off track. Ensure that you are consistently working towards your long-term vision. If you’re worried that you may forget to do so, get yourself into the habit of checking your list on a certain day of the week.

Share your list of new year goals with your family members and friends. Once you make your goals known to others, you are no longer only accountable to yourself. That explains why so many people are posting their new year’s resolutions on social media. The good news is that you would be more inclined give yourself the occasional push. After all, you wouldn’t want to disappoint the people around you.

But don’t forget to take breaks once in a while, by giving yourself a day off from time to time. This helps you to avoid burnout, and keeps you motivated as you work towards completing your goals.

Whenever you achieve a goal, reward yourself with a restaurant meal, or celebrate with your family and friends. Remember to thank the people who gave you honest feedback, and those who set aside time for you to bounce ideas off.

At the end of the year, look back at what you have achieved. Repeat the whole three-step process to make sure that you accomplish even more in the following year. Setting goals is an iterative process – the more we do it, the better we get.

Wishing everyone a successful year ahead!

Related Questions

Why is goal setting important? Goal setting helps you to maintain a long-term vision, while keeping you motivated in the short term. It provides you with a clear direction to work towards. At the same time, setting goals can also help you to organise your time and resources more effectively.

What is the difference between short-term goals and long-term goals? A short-term goal is something you would like to work on in the immediate future. It would take you at most a few days or a few weeks to attain. A long-term goal requires several months or years of effort to accomplish. During goal setting, you should always plan for a few short-term goals that help you work towards an overarching long-term goal. 

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